The Pennsylvania House Makes the Economy Even Worse for Working Musicians

The Pennsylvania House passed HB561, which allows liquor licensees (hotels, bars, restaurants) to hire minors to perform as musicians, but the same bill expressly prohibits any payment to those performers for their services.

This Bill passed the House by a vote to 185-12 with 5 absent. You can find the roll call of the vote right here.

If this Bill becomes law, there are serious implications for working musicians:

  1. The performance fees that establishments are willing to pay are going to decrease;

  2. It institutionalizes the fiction that young/beginning performers should perform (read: work) for free and give away their labor;

  3. This is a boon for establishments that can now book minors for zero dollars rather than hire professionals;

  4. This also impacts DJs who work clubs, because my reading of this Bill includes DJs also.

One of two things is possible. One alternative is that the State Representatives who voted for this legislation are totally ignorant of the economic difficulties musical performers face. Alternatively, the State Representatives who voted for this legislation are aware of the difficulties that musicians face and are indifferent at best or at worst, dismissive or hostile to the needs of musicians.

You can read the text of HB561 below:

Music Law Update: It's Not About Just the Recordings Anymore

For the times they are a-changin' - Bob Dylan

It's no secret that since 1999, the high water mark in terms of sales volume for recorded music, sales revenue has been cut roughly in half due to the disruption caused by internet distribution (legal and illegal) and now by streaming services. 

In fact revenue is so scarce that recording artists are getting extremely creative in devising ways to great cash. 

For example, Gene Simmons (yes that Gene Simmons) will personally travel to your house - at his own expense - to deliver a 150 song boxed set.  The price tag? $2,000.00.

For my musician clients, this story is actually a very important statement about how the revenue in the music industry has evaporated.

While this seems like an outrageous publicity stunt, this goes to show that you have to turn to non-traditional techniques to raise money. I.e. if you can't sell records on their own, then pair the records with some other "experience" that will entice your fans to pay you. Could it be a culinary event? Wine or beer tasting?

The subtext here is that the marketplace doesn't value recorded music the same way it once did. As creators, that is a hard truth that isn't easy to accept.  Some out of the box thinking can go a long way to help generate revenue to support your artistic career. 

If you want to schedule a consulting session with me to help you grow your business, please contact me

A Rock Band Fights for Free Speech at the Supreme Court and Wins; SCOTUS Rules Part of Lanham Act Violates the First Amendment

This is case about a rock band, a dubious and inflammatory stage name, and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).   It's also a matter of free speech, and the concept that speech - including offensive speech - is Constitutionally protected.  There are a lot of hot button issues in this case.  

The rock band?  The Oregon based, self styled "Chinatown dance rock" band The Slants

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Entertainment Law: More SXSW Performers Denied Entry into US

The SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas is one of the largest music festivals in the country, attracting performers from all around the world.  The event that is currently happening this week is the first edition to occur during the Trump Administration and the change to Customs and Border Patrol's scrutiny of foreign visitors.  As a result, some performers who thought they were allowed into the US with the documentation they have are getting surprised when CPB denies them entry into the US.  You can read some of the news coverage here

Quick analysis of the SXSW/visa issue:

1. The SXSW organizers are not the arbiters of US immigration law, so when artists "have a letter from SXSW" and attempt to use that as proof with US Customs and Border Patrol, the artists are asking for trouble. That's like telling the police that your friend told you it was OK borrow the car when you get stopped.

2. What the performers are attempting to rely on is either the Visa Waiver program or a tourist visa, the latter of which prohibits any kind of employment. It's pretty simple. A B-2 visa, for example, allows participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating.

3. The artists are getting either no legal advice, or bad legal advice, and that's no defense.

4. The artists should have management & legal counsel in the US that can pave the way for their entry into the US to perform. If the performers obtained the right kind of visa - a P-2 or P-3 visa - they likely would not have this problem, as the P visas authorize holders to perform at entertainment events while they are in the US.

5. The purpose of the visa has to actually be the purpose for entry into the country. Performing at a promotional showcase is arguably a commercial purpose, which is why the performers are being denied entry. Even though the artists aren't getting paid cash, they are receiving value - (the old chestnut of "exposure"), plus the event organizers are certainly making money from the performers' appearances. That touches on another short essay for later about who benefits when artists work for "free".